Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Bittersweet Farewell

Tomorrow I leave Oxford. It seems unbelievable. Even writing it down doesn't make it feel any more valid in my head. It feels like I just have for some reason moved all my stuff into Jojo's room, but it will only be a matter of time until I move back to Western and everyone else will be there. However, this can never be for everyone has already left (well minus Karen and Maura). So here I am, sitting on the well-worn springy mess that is supposed to be a mattress in an unfamiliar room with my belongings and memories strewn about the floor in suitcases thinking about the adventure that is to come and the life that is coming to an end. I will miss Oxford, quite terribly at points. I love the Briton's fashion sense, all wild and crazy; I love the old buildings and trees, which make it feel like you have connected with history; I love the pound coins and the tax already included into the price that make paying for things so much easier; I love the pub atmospheres, something you cannot find a comparable substitute in the States; I love cheesy chips with salt, vinegar, and ketchup that fulfil your craving at 2am when walking from the Purple Turtle. These things I will miss, along with the friends I have developed through the program. Anna, Deidre, Carl, Charles, Aaron, Josh, Alvin, Chrissy, Tom, Nick, Newman, Francis and Penelope. I will miss working in tutorials with Lesley Brads and John Jackon. I know that these people have made a significant impact on my life and through them I have changed for the better. Oxford will always have a fond place in my heart.

Yet I titled this post 'A Bittersweet Farewell' and therefore I must be not totally unhappy with leaving, which is true. I cannot wait to get back home and drive in my car with the AC blasting and singing until my voice goes hoarse. I can't wait to hug my parents and watch regular TV, pet my cats and dogs, and hang out with my close friends. My mom already has my meals planned out. I will be having a Chipotle burrito when I get off the plane, and within the next few days I will have salmon, steak, Nuway, Yia Yias, breakfast, and a roast. Oh man, I have begun salivating just thinking about it. I cannot wait.

Well here's to you Oxford. You provided me with more experiences and personal growth than I could have ever imagined. You made things tough, but revealed so much beauty in this world. Cheers, Britain.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Beginning of Goodbye

Two weeks and counting - who can believe that?? It feels like ages ago that I stepped off of that Oxford Tube Airline bus from Heathrow with Kyle. I remember feeling so disoriented, wondering where Gloucester Green was and how on earth we were going to find the Warner's house. I was in a dream that day and I suppose I still am, but that dream is coming to an end. Soon it will be time to wake up, drag my two suitcases, duffel bag and backpack to the airport and fly back to America.

It is all very bittersweet, because I cannot wait to get back and see my friends and parent and be able to eat at places like Chipotle and Nuway. Yet, I am going to miss Oxford quite terribly, I feel. Number one, the weather is great - I don't know how I am going to manage in the 90s. Number two, the accents are fab. Number three - the atmosphere here is so wonderful, it's almost indescribable. I am going to miss the lovely roses blooming in the gardens, the ducks in the river, walking everywhere, the odd and quaint British stores, the kebab stands and wonderful cider, and the kids in the program. However, I will not miss the overcrowded streets of Oxford, my dirty house, the cobblestones that I so frequently trip over, or the outrageous prices.

I feel like I have grown so much here. Not only do I feel more self-assured but I feel stronger. I think the running is helping (I ran for 25 minutes straight yesterday!). Although I don't know for sure that I want to become a professor, I know that that would be a good possibility. I have come to grips with being alone, being self-sufficient, and balancing my schoolwork with playtime. I can now manoeuvre around cities by myself, stay in hostels, and travel abroad with only myself to rely upon. I know who I am now, not fully but this time abroad has greatly enhanced my relationship with myself. I don't need anyone to tell me what to think or how to act or what I should be because I have found that out on my own. It has only taken this time of growth to show me that and to become comfortable with myself, contradictions, mistakes and all. I think my time in Oxford has been very good for me, but I cannot wait to be home.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Fight for Gay Rights

Today I attended a debate at the Oxford Union entitled "This House believes that the Gay Rights Movement has undermined family values." On the side of the Proposition were Stephen Green, a Christian fundamentalist, Michael Lucas, a Moscow born gay porn star and director, and a student. On the side of the Opposition were Peter Tatchell, a high profile human rights activist, Sue Sanders, a lesbian and co-chair of 'Schools Out', and a gay former student. The debate was quite intriguing for the speakers made several points in the debate worth noting, with the exception of any of Stephen Green's statements.

The student on the Proposition surprised me, for I was expecting a clear cut Stephen Green vs. human rights debate, but instead he and later Lucas offered an intriguing perspective on this debate. They said yes, indeed the Gay Rights Movement is undermining family values, but those family values need to be undermined. They discussed the bad family values that have come from a history of oppression. The nuclear family lay at the centre of it all: the father, mother, 2.4 children and that beloved dog where everyone was fulfilling their designated roles as depicted by the Bible. And yes, gay marriage does undermine this small-minded view of a marriage and family. If this is all that a family is then single-parent units, adopted parent units, etc. are not in a true sense families. And I am truly glad that the Gay Rights Movement is undermining this narrow, constricting view of family values.

However, if you are applying a different perspective on family values then the debate is completely different. Let's now think. What is a family? Yes, it contains two or more people, but is that what it really is? Isn't the whole idea of family based upon the spirit of it, the love, the unity, the self-sacrifice, the inclusivity? And that can be found in any family whether it be straight, gay, single-parent, adopted, anything. The tradition of marriage and family values are not corrupted by a collective group, but instead by individuals. Anyone, gay, straight, transgender, whatever can cheat or be abusive to their families and undercut the spirit of family life, just as anyone can strengthen it through love and compassion. So with this newer, more modern definition of a family the Gay Rights Movement definitely does not undermine family values.

This latter view is the one I hold to be true. Sure, I believe that the gay marriage undermines the old family values, but times have changed and so have family values. They have become more subjective and to this the movement only adds a further dimension to the inclusiveness felt in families. In a modern context the Gay Rights Movement only enhances family values rather than detracts from them.

Additionally, Tatchell brought up a good point, what are straight people afraid of anyways? Do those that fight against the rights of gay marriage fear that it will detract from their own marriage? Do they fear that it will make their marriage seem less legitimate? Don't they just realize that these are stupid fears? For as Tatchell said, it's not like there is some giant rights equation where if one group gets more rights then rights will be subtracted from another. All the movement is calling for is equality on all levels. Homophobia does not legitimate civil legislation against a certain group just as negrophobia does not legitimate civil legislation against black people. You cannot allow your own subjective view impose itself on the rights of others. Every man, woman and child was born to have equal rights and it is not within your power to judge who is fit or not. If you believe in god, then leave it to him. This also means that gays should have the rights not to just civil unions but to full fledged marriage in court, just as straight couples do. For remember, separate does not mean equal. Britain has the civil union law in place, but according to the London Times 61% of the populace believe that homosexuals should have full rights to marriage. Furthermore, it is now considered political suicide in Britain to fight against gay rights. I found this information incredibly inspiring and I hope it can spread back to America.

That is my tangent on gay rights. I have much more to say and I feel incredibly passionate about the subject. However, right now I am tired of typing due to writing a 10 page essay on The Chronicles of Narnia, so do forgive my short discussion. If you ever feel the urge to talk with me about this, feel free.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring - A New Beginning

It is now Springtime here in Oxford, which means that the flowers are beginning to bloom, the trees are beginning to leaf, and the grass is now even more green. The rains have come, but finally the sun revealed itself today, bringing hope for a warmer, brighter week ahead. With the British environment encouraging me, I have too decided to enter into my own form of Spring. I believe it is high time that I begin working on the most important relationship in my life, the one with myself, because this one is for the long haul.

It is true, I have hit some speed bumps on the way, made some less than perfect decisions that I now regret. But what is life without these regrets? The only thing you can do is atone, learn from the past and move on. For as George Bernard Shaw says, "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." So here I am. I've learned and grown from my past and I now know a better way of where to lead myself next.

As part of this 'getting to know myself/better myself' program, I have begun exercising. I am training myself over these 9 weeks of term to be able to run a 5K. I am now beginning my third week and I'm not trying to gloss the next few weeks over. It is going to be hard and I'm not going to enjoy the pain in the sides and feeling like my lungs are on fire, but I'll manage through. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? I feel like I am toughening myself up for the callousness and brutality of the real world. If I make myself strong maybe, just maybe, I will find life's pitfalls less difficult to cope with.

Also, I have been giving up drinking more than a pint or so in a night. (I am legal now, people.) I think that by doing this will also help me grow stronger as an individual and put me at the wheel of my own life, instead of letting other people dictate my reality. I mean, I have to be the leading lady in my own life!

I am also trying to become more comfortable with being alone, without a guy or a friend that I depend solely on. I don't always need to be around people, although I shouldn't revert into being a hermit either. I like talking too much to do that. It's just that when I am at home by myself, I don't need to be constantly in contact with someone, via Skype, Facebook or text. That is not necessary for my own well-being and it is time to move on from my crutches.

So, here I am. Working on myself to be a better person. A strong, confident, self-assured woman who takes control of her own life and lives life to its fullest. And I believe that the best way to live a happy, fulfilling life is to start at the very beginning - the baseboards - yourself. So I am preparing myself to follow the wise advice of Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Czech Me Out! - Spring Break and Trinity Weeks 0 -1

Well everyone, it has been about 7 weeks since I have written. And boy have I been busy! I will now give you a brief description of the places I went during my break and tell a few of the stories. I hope you won't get too terribly bored.

Melody and I flew out to Prague of March 14th very early in the morning. Prague was incredible. There were amazing towers and the atmosphere was great. It was rather chilly and snowed a bit, but the cheap meals and beer quickly warmed us both up. We really enjoyed ourselves here.

Next we went to Salzburg, Austria by train. Now this city was my favorite of them all. I absolutely loved Salzburg. The views were incredible and the town felt very safe and comfortable. Not to mention we took a Sound of Music tour that showed us all of the great sights filmed in the movie around the town. I found my favorite beer here, called Die Wiesse. I loved it and hope to go back. 

At Salzburg I said goodbye to Melody and took the train to Vienna to meet Sam. Vienna was a great place and we experienced lots of sunshine. My favorite event in this city was when we went to see an orchestra play in the Vienna Concert Hall (pictured below). They were incredible. I also saw my first prostitute here, which of course was an adventure.

From Vienna, Sam and I took a plane to Athens. That day was probably one of the most eventful days of the trip. That morning we got up and ate a huge breakfast in our hostel in Vienna. It was a wonderful buffet with granola, yogurt, Nutella, and ham. We ate a TON. I don't know how we managed to eat so much. We walked around Vienna and eventually had lunch (at 3pm) at this all you can eat/pay what you think its worth Pakistani restaurant. I wasn't very hungry from breakfast but I ate anyways. We both ate quite a bit, although Sam definitely had more than me. From there we went back to get our stuff and out to the airport. We got on the plane after the usual irritation in airports and sat down only to be served dinner on our 8pm flight. I, of course, was not hungry after the amount of gorging that we had done that day. However, Sam was. So not only did he proceed to eat his dinner, but he ate nearly all of mine as well. I was shocked. Looking back I don't know how we managed to eat all of that food. It was probably enough to feed a few families in Africa... for a month. Anyways, we arrived in Athens around midnight and caught a bus into the city center. I had directions to our hostel by metro, but when we went to the metro stop we found that low and behold it was closed. Therefore, we had to find our way to our hostel at night in a city that was in masses of debt and having riots. Clearly, this was NOT the best situation ever. In fact, this night turned into one of the scariest nights of my life. So we walked along in what we were thinking was the right direction followed by two abandoned dogs who used the cross-walks even when we didn't. (I found them very cute and amusing, Sam didn't agree.) We took a wrong turn and ended up in this area of town that had men in military uniforms holding massive machine guns on each street corner and a caravan full of more like them. This was definitely not the best place to be at 1am. So we asked one of the men for directions and ran off on our way (the dogs got distracted by the men at this point and left us). We went along and eventually stopped in a nice hotel for directions again and picked up a handy map. From the hotel we walked across a square in the direction of our hostel and began to be followed by some gangster ruffians. I was desperately afraid that they were going to knife us, but they eventually lost interest. We finally got to our hostel around 1:30 and on our way in noticed the lovely prostitutes hanging out right near the doorway. It was quite the eventful day and night. Athens was a very interesting place in comparison to all of the other cities I visited. The buildings were run-down, graffiti was everywhere, people looked pretty sketchy, especially at night, and abandoned dogs were everywhere. On the last night we randomly ran into our friend Nate Chastain, which was really great. It was an adventure being there, but I don't think I will ever go back to that city. 

I said goodbye to Sam in Athens and took a plane to Amsterdam to meet Josh, Alvin, Anna, Deirdre, and Carl. I really enjoyed Amsterdam. We went to the Keukenhof tulip gardens and later to the Anne Frank House and Red Light District, which were both very sad and sobering experiences. Amsterdam is a very relaxed, hip town and I found it had a great atmosphere. Although the streets followed the paths of the canals and so I got very confused while navigating us around. Despite this setback, I was very sad to leave that city. 

From Amsterdam I took a train to Paris and met up with Melody again. We had a wonderful time in this city. Josh, Alvin, Melody and I took a walking tour central Paris and on this 3 hour tour ended up enduring crazy weather. It was always windy and began as sunny then turned cloudy then rainy then it began to hail then it was sunny and then pouring... etc. It was definitely insane weather. We also met up with Jerome, my brother's ex who lives in Paris, to show us around. Melody left us halfway into our time there, which was sad. We toured the Musee D'Orsey and the Catacombs, which was a frightening experience. Check out my pictures of that; it was pretty surreal. I left Paris on April 2nd by train and got to Oxford that night in order to greet my parents in the morning. 

My time with my parents was great. We travelled around first in Oxford and went to Easter service at Christ Church, which was pretty fab. And of course we had to get a pint at the Eagle & Child in order to placate my dad. We then rented a car and drove around the Cotswolds (the villages around Oxford) and then drove on to York. In York we found a Cath Kidston store, which made me extremely happy. While we didn't find York to be the BEST place in England as Rick Steves thinks, we did enjoy the city. 

From York we drove over to Ambleside in the Lake District. We had to go up a wicked pass near Lake Ulswater in order to get into town. It was pretty neat. Although, my dad's driving terrified me. We would get a little too close to the edge of the road for comfort. I was definitely holding on to the "Oh Shit"/ "Suicide" handle for a significant portion of our drives. From Ambleside we drove to Liverpool where we got a pint in the Cavern, where the Beatles originally played and my dad picked up a few souvenirs.

From Liverpool we flew to Dublin and hung out in the city for a few days. We checked out the Guinness Storehouse and the Book of Kells. I will tell you, my days were jammed full with museums and activities with my parents. Although, I did thoroughly appreciate staying in hotels instead of hostels and eating quality food and not worrying about finances. From Dublin we drove the width of Ireland to the west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher, which were overwhelmingly vast and beautiful. It was incredible. Nothing I've ever seen compares with that sight. 

From the Cliffs of Moher we drove to the Dingle Peninsula, which has 10,000 human residents on it and 500,000 sheep residents. This was also a gorgeous place. Apparently the next port due West from the peninsula is Boston. Interesting, eh? I loved seeing all of the sheep and the amazing islands right off the coast. Then we went to the Ballyseede Castle to stay the night, which was AMAZING. I loved staying there. I had my very own room and we ate a 5 course meal together there. They also had these really cute dogs named Arthur and Einstein, who both had lots of character.

From here we went on to Cashel, Ireland which has the Rock of Cashel. The town was pretty empty and seemed pretty stuck in time. The Rock of Cashel was interesting, but I preferred looking at Hore Abbey, which was right down the hill from the Rock. Hore Abbey was a 12th century Cistercian monastery that is now in complete ruin. It was pretty neat to look at. From Cashel we drove to Dublin to hang out for a day before the flight out at 8am the next morning. 

We arrived at the airport after waking up at 4:30am and hopping in a taxi over only to find out that some volcano in Iceland had exploded and all flights to the UK were grounded. We were shocked. There was already a massive line for Ryan Air to reschedule the flight in the airport, but we got in line anyways. Eventually we gave up and took a taxi out to Dun Laoughaire (or however you spell it) port in order to take a ferry across to Holyhead, England. Thankfully, I called and eventually secured us tickets aboard the 1:15 boat. As we stood in line to see if we needed to pick up any ticket confirmation from the ticket desk with others who were trying to buy their tickets, we heard the ticket people call out saying that the ferry was all booked. We felt so badly for the travellers who had waited in line for nearly an hour only to be turned away. We knew that they all were feeling the exhaustion and frustration that comes with this kind of mess. However, because we had already gotten our reservation we were able to get on the 1:15 ferry. Of course, our ferry's gangway didn't work, which caused us to get a late start, and one of the jets was not functioning, causing our journey to take an extra 45 minutes longer. But we made it and we hustled onto a train to get back to Oxford. 

We got back to Oxford around 10:15pm that night and were exhausted. Due to the ash cloud, my parents were forced to spend an extra week here in England, which I didn't mind so much. Sure, they grew a little tiresome after a while, but I generally enjoyed their company. Now it is 1st week of Trinity term. I am taking WWII tutorial with Lesley Brads and C.S. Lewis with Michael Ward. I am very much looking forward to these classes. However, I must stop writing, despite that I have much more to tell you, because I am about to pass out of exhaustion. Well, not really. But this is growing trying. Never fear though. I shall write again soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Final Two Weeks!

Well, here it is. The final two weeks before Hilary Term ends. Can you believe it? I honestly cannot. My life has been so interesting lately. I've procrastinated a lot by watching movies, I bought a pair of "jeggings" (jean leggings), and I have given up cussing for Lent. This Sunday I am turning 21. That is also hard to believe. I feel like I should be 15 still. Awkward, unnoticed, meek, horrifyingly self-conscious and thinking that people aged 21 were sooooo old. But here I am. Turning 21 and not feeling quite as old as I thought I would. The one thing that does freak me out is that it wouldn't be odd if I dated a 23 year old. Can life please just stop? I feel like time is slipping away like sand through my fingers and the harder I try to hold on to it the more I lose. I almost wish I was back to a time when life was so much easier. Although, there was never a time when life was "easy." Every moment of my life had its trials and difficulties. They are just shifting now and becoming more scary. I don't want to think about how I am going to be a senior in college next year. I don't want to think about how I'm going to have to take the GRE this summer. I don't want to have to worry about going to grad school and getting an apartment. I just wish these days could last forever, but unfortunately they are bittersweet with the knowledge of tomorrow. My time at Oxford is already halfway over and the end is drawing steadily nearer. How can this be? It seems like I just got here. It feels like I had only yesterday stepped off that plane from Chicago and made my way to the Warner's house with Kyle, bags in tow. Time is a funny thing and I wish I had more of it.

I'm leaving a week from Sunday for Prague and my spring break adventures. It seems unreal that in just two weeks I will be in Salzburg, Austria with Melody. I just wish I could fly there right now and live out those adventures, for I am beginning to find Oxford tedious at times. The monotonous writing of essays, going to the Purple Turtle, attending lecture... I told my mom about this feeling and she replied that this is how it always feels like at the end of a term. Only the sunshine is making my days a little more cheerful. I am ready for some weather that I can wear just a jacket in, instead of lugging along my huge coats, but still shivering as I walk on the pavement into town. I feel in my heart an restlessness that only comes from a life of monotony. Thank goodness that I will be travelling soon and having new adventures!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Plans for Spring Break!

Here are my official plans for Spring Break! I have booked all of the possible travelling options, minus a few trains and begun to book hostels. I am really excited and cannot wait to get travelling! I included pictures of each site so you know what exactly I'm going to be seeing!

Sunday, March 14 - Catch the 1am bus from Gloucester Green, Oxford to Stansted Airport. Arrive at 4:10, then board plane for Prague at 7:15am. Arrive in Prague at 10:10am and go to our hostel. Melody and I will be staying at the Old Prague Hostel. Stay and tour Prague until Tuesday, March 16.

Wednesday, March 17 - Catch a train with Melody to Salzburg, Austria. It should be about a 7 hour train ride. We will tour the city and go on the tour of Hitler's Eagles Nest and the Sound of Music tour. We will be staying at Gasthaus Stadtalm hostel until the 18th.

Friday, March 19 - Melody leaves to go back to London and I catch a train to meet up with Sam Hill in Vienna. We will be staying at a friend's house in the city and sometime during the weekend make the journey to Auschwitz. We will leave on the 22nd.

Monday, March 22 - Tour Vienna for one last time before Sam and I catch a flight to Athens. We will be using Aegean Airlines and leave at 8:30pm and arrive in Athens at 11:45. For the next several days we will tour Athens and visit a beach. We will be staying at Athens Easy Access hostel for 4 nights.

Friday, March 26 - I will leave Sam in Athens and fly to Amsterdam to meet up with Anna, Josh, Deirdre, and Alvin. My flight leaves at 10:55am and arrives in Amsterdam at 1:30pm. We will tour the city, see Anne Frank's house, visit the Van Gogh Museum, and see the tulip gardens at Keukenhof, about an hour outside of Amsterdam. We will most likely stay at the Flying Pig Uptown hostel and leave on the 29th.

Monday, March 29 - We will catch a train from Amsterdam to Paris sometime in the afternoon, just in time to meet up with Melody again. We will go see the city, go up in the Eiffel Tower, tour the Catacombs, and meet up with Jerome. We will most likely stay at the Blue Planet Hostel. I will leave on the 2nd.

Friday, April 2 - I leave Paris on the EuroStar at 2:13pm and get into Oxford at 5:23pm. This will allow me plenty of time to rest before my parents arrive the next day.

Saturday, April 3 - My mom and dad arrive to Heathrow at 11:25am, meaning they will get to Oxford around  2pm. We will hang out in Oxford for 2 days.

Monday, April 5 - We will get a rental car to drive up to Chipping Campden and stay at a B&B. We will tour the Cotswolds and Lake District until the 9th.

Friday, April 9 - We will drive to Liverpool and fly to Dublin at 4pm and arrive at 4:50. There we will tour Dublin for the next day.

Sunday, April 11 - We will drive a rental car to the Cliff of Moher and tour the area. We will stay at Ballinsheen House

Monday, April 12 - We will go to the Dingle Peninsula and stay at the Ballyseede Castle.

Tuesday, April 13 - We will drive to the Rock of Cashel and stay at Joy's Rockside House.

Wednesday, April 14 - We will return to Dublin and tour for the day.

Thursday, April 15 - We will return the car at 6am and catch a 8:15am flight to Liverpool. Then we will get on the 10:50am bus to Oxford. There we will stay for the next day.

Saturday, April 17 - My mom and dad leave on a flight back to Wichita at 12:50pm. For the rest of the weekend I will relax and prepare for Nought Week.

So there are all my plans! I am very excited and cannot wait to be able to see all of these places!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Ramblings

So, I've been pondering recently after seeing people get engaged, married, and have children who are my age. This especially comes after hearing the exciting news that my best friend from home, Kala, is engaged! He really is a great guy and suits her perfectly. I am honored because I am one of her bridesmaids! It really is a joyous occasion.

But yes, my ponderings. I guess all these thoughts come about because I see people my age who are experiencing this and I realize that I am not even at the point in my life where there is a guy I am dating, let alone seriously, or even nearly engaged to. I guess I am sort of jealous of those people. Those who have found that love and security within their lives from finding that one person they want to share their life with. Being single is accepting a lack of security. I mean, you are secure with yourself but it does get rather lonely after a while. I suppose I am just tired of dating. I mean, dating is fun and all, but it's when it gets serious and I'm not so into it that it becomes problematic. I hate dramatic relationships. I guess I'm also afraid of commitment now. I just don't want to get hurt. Although, I know that eventually I will have to take that risk, but I haven't needed to yet.

However, I am also thankful that I do not have someone I'm that serious with at this point. I'm being selfish but that would drastically restrict my travel itineraries, my future plans, and my social life. I know I'm not ready to settle down. I've accepted that. Hopefully by 27 I will be married, which means I've got at the most 5 years to find that man. But 5 years is a long time and I really hate waiting. This is why I just wish I could glimpse into the future to see myself with my husband and find solace. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. I just hope that I will find someone who suits me incredibly well like Kala has. If not, I've determined that I will be a cat lady forever. Or go on the Bachelorette at age 30.

Anyways! Those are my lovely ramblings. Please make sure you check out the post below bc I just wrote it also!

Liverpool, Dublin, and Oxford

Well, I thought it was about time that I wrote again. I know I have neglected this yet again. But I suppose everyone has survived.

I am only going to give a brief overview of what happened for the week before Hilary Term started: I went with Claire and her sister, Cate, to London and watched the fireworks exploding off of the London Eye while freezing our butts off on Westminster Bridge. Seriously, it was so cold that my feet went completely numb and I think if you had stepped on them they would have just shattered. From there we went on to Liverpool where we did the Beatles tour and had a jolly ol' time. Unfortunately, we overslept and missed our flight to Dublin. That was a huge bummer. We managed to get to Dublin by way of ferry, which was pretty awesome. Dublin was great, but cold. We went to the Guinness Factory, a neighboring town, the Jameson Factory, on a tour of the city, and generally walked around everywhere. It was lots of fun. Unfortunately, our ferry was cancelled and rescheduled for the next day due to the heavy snows across Britain. Somehow we did manage to get back.

The term is going great so far. My housemates are really fabulous. Anna is very much like me and she is OCD about the house being clean, which is so lovely. Also, on Tuesdays we watch the Bachelor together, which is super fun. Deirdre is super cute and sweet but my goal is to get her to come out of her room more often. Charles is a soccer player and super sweet. He made us one large cookie once (along with cookie dough!) and always is very pleasant. Carl is a good guy who reminds me of my father. He always greets me with "Hey Annie! How ya doin'?" For that he gets teased a lot. He's finally learned to tell me "shut up" so that is pretty great! :) Kyle is still here and is still Kyle. We always have interesting times together.

I've met one of the greatest guys here too. His name is Josh and he and I are already attached at the hip. He's super sweet, funny, enthusiastic, encouraging, and smart. Too bad he isn't my type! Haha. But yes he is really great. Love him to death already, which is really nice. Everyone else here is very fun as well. We all have a good time together, but this group seems much more low key than the last one. That's nice though in its own way.

The tutorials I am taking this term are WWI with Dr. Lesley Brads, which meets every week. She is really nice and quiet, although she is a much more serious tutor. I am also taking the Crusades with Dr. John Jackson so that is fun to have him again. However, we only meet biweekly. Sad day. I am also working on my proposal for a summer research grant. Here is a basic overview of it: "In my essay I mean to discuss the old line of historical thought on the widespread corruption in the Catholic Church and the new argument proposed by Eamon Duffy that this corruption was really not that widespread at all. I will discuss the merits of each argument and come to a conclusion about anti-Catholicism and its true nature in the Tudor reigns." Hopefully I get it!!

Anyways that is my overview of the term and pre-term so far! I shall write in a new post about my thoughts recently.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Break and the New Year!

First, I would like to apologize to my avid readers (if there are any) for not writing for so long. In my defense, I was away on holiday and visiting family during this long period. I was not consciously choosing to neglect you. Because of my long absence, this post will be excessively long, and for that, I would also like to apologize.

After a grueling 8 weeks of classes my Winter holiday began on the 6th of December at 1:04am. Well, actually it began earlier when Maura, Melody, and I were standing on High street just minutes after saying goodbye to David and Mason. We were all waiting there for the bus as the frigid air whipped our faces and we watched drunken university students wander from clubs and bars. Melody and I rummaged through our purses to find our coach tickets just as the bus peaked around the bend, which we quickly produced. Maura turned to us, looked at our tickets, and said "we had to print those??" and that is how the journey began. Thankfully, I had an extra 20 quid to loan her and we set off on the bus to Stansted Airport to catch our 6am flight to Rome.

Rome was completely wonderful. As we rode the bus into city center I saw these amazing remains of Roman buildings decorating the hills. It truly was spectacular. I could not believe that this was the city that holds the remains of a culture that I studied for four months. I simply couldn't believe it. I remember us walking from our hostel after arriving on a leisurely stroll down the street and suddenly happening upon the Colosseum! We were shocked. None of us were expecting it to be so close, because it was literally 10 minutes away from where we were sleeping. As we walked around this 2000 year old monstrosity, my mind reeled and couldn't reconcile the view in front of me. How is this possible?? I simply can't really be here! There was definitely a disconnect between my mind and reality.

In Rome we saw the Pantheon (which was terribly crowded), the Colosseum, and the Vatican. The visit to the Vatican Museum was by far the most interesting excursion in Rome. We went on the 2nd day (Monday) in the morning, arriving there at 9:30, only to be greeted by a line that wrapped around half of Vatican City. As we stood in line waiting our turn, we passed cripples begging for money at an alarmingly slow pace. Maura, Melody, and I attempted to divert ourselves by playing word games, such as naming all the countries in the world. (I failed miserably.) It took us over two hours to get inside. After seeing the first gallery, Maura decided this looking at old art thing was not her forte and went to the pizzeria (who knew there was a pizzeria in the Vatican? It's no doubt overpriced) and said she would catch up with us later. Melody and I left her there and proceeded to get a little lost for 30 minutes until we at last found our way in to the significant galleries that lead to the Sistine Chapel. We walked through room after glorious room full of ancient Roman art, quickly growing weary of the teasing signs claiming that the famed Sistine Chapel was just through the next doorway. As we wandered we began to realize that it would be next to impossible to find/meet up with Maura at the end of this tour, then we proceeded to not worry about it for the time being.

Finally, we arrived at the glorious chapel that Michaelangelo painted, leaving us in complete awe of its splendor. The room was incredibly crowded and although the guards were yelling "no foto!" everyone was trying to sneak pictures of the masterpiece. OUr view was cut short all too quickly because Melody needed to go meet our friend from Jewell who was meeting up with us at the Castle D'Angelo for a late lunch, leaving me to round up Maura.

Melody left me sitting on the curb right in front of the entrance to the Vatican Museum. I attempted to call Maura but it went straight to voicemail. So I sat there on that curb waiting on Melody's return and Maura's appearance for over an hour as the sky began to dim, the temperature began to drop, and my stomach began to complain of its emptiness (no food for 8 hours = bad). After nearly an hour after sitting on the hard slab of concrete I received a call from my Scottish friend, EMma. Confused, I answered to hear her say that "Maura is lost." I responded with "Of course she is! But how do you know this?" Apparently, in a stroke of brilliance, Maura decided to go to an internet cafe after losing us and discovering her cell phone was dead in order to find someone to call us. With some maneuvering, Maura successfully met me in front of the Museum just moments before the arrival of Melody.

Needless to say, Rome was very exciting and I was very sad to leave its ancient streets, but we had to leave for Florence! Florence was also wonderful. It was much more of a laid back city, so we allowed ourselves to explore. However, we did stop in at several museums, one of which included the David. (Really that was incredible! I never knew it was so tall!) Our time in Florence was short (only 2 days) but I will say my favorite experience there was wandering through the markets near the Duomo. I found a lot of cute items and enjoyed experiencing the delights of the colorful culture.

Yet another experience occurred, which was the climax of the trip. This particular event happened we were sitting in the train station waiting on our train's arrival. We had arrived to the station early and had finally come near to the moment of our train's platform announcement. Melody and I pulled out our tickets to double check we had them and... (do you get a sense of foreboding?) Maura cannot find hers. She literally had it in her hands two minutes before yet somehow that slip of paper disappeared. As she pulled apart her backpack searching for her ticket, the platform was announced for our train. Our blood pressure rose exponentially as I watched her tear through her stuff to no avail. Finally I just yelled at her "go buy yourself another ticket!!" Melody and I were absolutely freaking out, questioning "what do we do if we miss our train?" "Should we leave her behind?" "we can't leave her behind! What if she can't get a ticket for this train??" Thankfully a few minutes later she shows up with a new ticket in hand (which cost her around 50 euros) and we ran for the train. I felt like we were in the Amazing Race: Melody and I running with our giant backpacks loaded to the brim and our purses wrapped across our bodies, sweat rising on our faces as our bodies rocked with adrenaline. Of course our assigned train was nearly at the end and we were out of breath by the time we reached the door. In some miracle we made it on the train and sat down in our seats literally shaking because of the stress and adrenaline racing through our systems, while the rest of the passengers just stared. We successfully made it from Florence to Venice, in some stroke of good luck.

Venice was wonderful of course and shockingly empty. The city tended to frustrate me because of its disorganization on a map. However, I loved my time there. We visited the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's and successfully made it to Grom, the gelato place that Rick Steeves raves about. We loved wandering around and getting lost while looking at all of the neat shops lining the streets. OUr time to leave came all to quickly, but we had to pack our bags to head to Oxford so that I could leave the next day for Kansas.

As the time has come to 12:30am, I should probably rest. I have to awake at 8:30 in order to attend lectures. However, I will write more on my time at home and adventure in Liverpool and Dublin soon, as well as my new amazing house mates!